Cranes & Lifting, Features, International

Mini cranes are big in NZ

Mini Cranes NZ started with one man and a spider crane. Today, there’s a crew of eight and eleven spider and mini cranes in the fleet. Cranes and Lifting investigates.

Mini Cranes NZ started with one man and a spider crane. Today, there’s a crew of eight and eleven spider and mini cranes in the fleet. Cranes and Lifting investigates.

Clinton Addenbrooke and his wife Rosey, started Mini Cranes NZ in 2016 and as the name suggests they only have mini cranes in the fleet. From the outset, it was obvious they had found a niche in the New Zealand construction industry.

Addenbrooke left school at 16 and tried his hand at a few different jobs before finding the construction industry aged 20.

“Initially I was a rigger, but it didn’t take long to realise that operating cranes was what I really wanted to do. I was fortunate to work with some great people from a number of different construction and fabrication companies who encouraged me to try it out. Once I realised my passion, I never looked back! Before starting our business, I operated cranes in New Zealand, Australia (QLD, NSW and WA) and also New Caledonia,” he said.

Addenbrooke took a break from the crane industry to look after their first child and when they learned they were expecting a second child he and his wife took the opportunity to start the business.

“Spider cranes had interested me from the moment I first saw them operating in Australia and it was clear that they were under-utilised on NZ construction sites, so it seemed a natural fit. We started with one man, a spider crane and a ute and trailer and we now have a team of 8 people, 11 spider cranes, mini cranes and mini crawler cranes in a mixed fleet of Maedas and UNICs.

“The fleet’s capacity ranges from 2.9t to 4.6t and we have two tilt tray trucks (5t and 8t) that we transport the larger cranes on, and a heavy-duty trailer that we tow behind our utes to transport the spider cranes.” he said.

Mini Cranes NZ is a husband and wife team.

“I do the day to day running of the business and my wife does most of the compliance and systems documents in the back ground while still working her normal job.  Her joke is that she’s my ‘not-so-silent business partner’,”, he said.

Addenbrooke has a simple philosophy for the business.

“We focus on one thing and do it properly.  We aim to provide support to contractors and complete difficult and awkward jobs with a minimum of fuss.  Ultimately, this allows them to minimise the risk that some tasks may pose to their projects,” he said.

“We provide this service by investing in a modern innovative fleet and we are always looking for new ideas that will complement our business. We invest a lot of time in training our operators to ensure they perform at the highest level and get the job done safely and on time,” said Addenbrooke.

“Many clients are unaware that New Zealand has a specific qualification for operating mini cranes. All our operators have this qualification, and this has enabled us to pick up work. In some instances, health and safety audits have identified existing operators only held mobile crane operating tickets but were not qualified to operate the mini crane that they were using. We’ve been called in when this type of scenario emerges,” he said.

We have various models of Maedas and UNICs in the fleet. Some are better suited to certain jobs than others and having that flexibility and ability to satisfy our client’s needs is a must. As an example, some of our fleet have dual fuel options (petrol/electric, diesel/electric).  This enables us (and other contractors) to work comfortably indoors or in areas with low air volume changes without the need to deal with fume extraction,” said Addenbrooke.

Like all crane owners, Addenbrooke is keen to see his assets working to their full potential and studies market trends before investing in new machines.

“The key to this is the mixture of brands and models. Each has its own advantages and whilst there are definitely overlaps in suitability for particular jobs, some jobs have very specific constraints requiring a particular model to ensure the job is a success. We carefully consider the specifications for each addition to our fleet alongside jobs in the pipeline to identify which potentially best suits the needs of the market,”

Mini Cranes NZ is focussed on the maintenance and has two operators who are also mechanics.

“We have good relationships with the crane suppliers, Pace Cranes for the Maedas and Crane Sales NZ for the UNICs. If we have any difficulties, they are just a phone call away ready to help or point us in the right direction if we are struggling. We also have a maintenance system in place that follows the manufacturers’ recommendations.  This can sometimes be quite challenging on the longer-term jobs when the crane is in the basement six levels down or on the 20th floor of a high-rise,” said Addenbrooke.

Mini Cranes NZ will take on most types of work, from structural steel and pre-cast panels on large construction sites to installing an outdoor fireplace or spa pool in someone’s back yard.

“Clients engage us to take on awkward jobs that others are hesitant to perform because they know we will always do our best to figure out the most efficient method to complete the job. We don’t have a typical customer profile, we work with the big tier-one builders, artists installing large sculptures and homeowners wanting to put in an outdoor fireplace. We pride ourselves on treating every customer respectfully regardless of their crane knowledge,” said Addenbrooke.

“Most of our work is within Auckland, however we often travel as far as Hamilton and Whangarei. We consider work in all New Zealand locations and have also undertaken a few jobs outside of our ‘usual’ areas. Our aim is to leave every job with a satisfied client who calls us for their next job, providing great customer service is pivotal to this,” he said.

Appropriate training of operators and well-maintained, reliable plant and safe lift practices are paramount to Addenbrooke.

“Our modern fleet has the latest safety features which ensures that cranes are not damaged due to over lifting and sound operator knowledge and use of our JHA/SWMS ensures that lifts are appropriately planned and executed safely,” he said.

“We recommend that site visits are conducted prior to providing a quote, but ultimately it is the client’s decision to take us up on this (or not). Either way, safety is paramount so if a lift cannot be performed safely for any reason, our operators are empowered to refuse to do it. We evaluate the load and the site constraints against the load charts to determine which of our fleet is most suitable for the job,” said Addenbrooke.

Bringing new blood into the business through a traineeship program is also a priority for Addenbrooke.

“We are very passionate about taking on trainees. When I entered the crane industry, it was tough to find someone who was willing to take on a trainee crane operator. I want to encourage others into this career to ensure the future of the industry is in good hands. We have taken on one trainee each year for the last two years and have had very good results. They learn from the ground up shadowing me or the more experienced guys on different jobs, learning how to use the cranes to their full potential,” he said.

Support from the supplier is a huge factor for Mini Cranes NZ.

“If a crane is down on site you want it back up and running as soon as possible.  We are fortunate to receive excellent after-sales service from both Pace Cranes and Crane Sales NZ and sometimes they are able to source parts from overseas faster than we can get them in New Zealand. The service teams are fantastic to deal with over the phone and do everything they can to help us with any issues we encounter,” said Addenbrooke.

“We intend to continue to grow the business and deliver high quality services to all of our clients throughout New Zealand. Our desire to run a modern innovative fleet means that we will respond to changing needs in the market during this time and we are excited for the opportunities that this will provide us,” he said.

“At the moment, the Auckland construction market is buoyant which has driven growth within the industry. The forward work-load appears to be strong but levelling off to some degree. We are keen to see where the economy will head over the next few years and hope that we are well-placed to respond to the corresponding changes in the market,” said Addenbrooke.

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